Auctioneers cashing in on urge to Flog It!
The growing and seemingly irresistible urge of Middle England to pick out a family heirloom and flog it has driven a boom in smaller, regional auction houses.
The craze, popularised and encapsulated by the BBC valuation and sale series Flog It!, has highlighted a market otherwise dominated by the London’s Big Four auctioneers of Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and Phillips.
Yet while they dominate the multimillion-pound world of fine art and antiques, they have left much of the lower-hanging fruit to provincial auctioneers.
For more than a decade, the Big Four’s international salerooms have stepped back from selling objects in the £500 to £5,000 price bracket, a move that last year culminated in the closure of Christie’s in South Kensington, London.
In stark contrast, regional houses accounted for more than a quarter of the market last year, with combined sales of more than 500 auctioneers rising from £763 million in 2015 to £821 million, according to thesaleroom.com, a sister brand to Antiques Trade Gazette.
The regional auction houses’ overall market share has edged up from 24 per cent in 2015 to 26 per cent in 2017, according to new figures.
Several have responded by hiring extra staff and adding to their specialist sales lists, which have helped to boost turnover. Many of the smaller houses are selling more lots online each year, which can drive the hammer price higher and swell sales.
Items sold at regional auctions can range from Australian Kangaroo issue stamps to fine clocks, barometers, scientific instruments, as well as art and antiques.
Next month, Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions in Berkshire are offering a rare George III 2.5in pocket globe, dated 1782 and produced by John Newton, for between £3,000 and £5,000.
It is not only cheaper lots that are sold at regional auction houses. An early American porcelain teapot was sold this year for £460,000 at a Woolley & Wallis auction in Salisbury to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The pot was only the seventh piece known to be from the John Bartlam factory in Cain Hoy, South Carolina.
Fellows, which is Britain’s largest regional auction house, led last year’s league table, with £17 million of sales in the year to December.